.

.

Rena's skin becomes itchy in the summer, sweltering heat.

She props up her heavy, steel-coated cleaver against the wooden fencing between the yard and her father's house, discarding the full bag of garbage into its receptacle and going for her left forearm, digging her nails in, frowning and gazing at her surroundings.

Lately, it feels like someone's always watching her. Someone who doesn't want her to know it either. Rena cautiously totes around one of her favored items, no matter if it's heading to the bathroom or outside. She needs it. Her father hasn't been around long enough to notice her erratic behavior or Rena's possessive need for her cleaver.

Her blue eyes widen, pupils dilating into into barely-there slits, when a pair of feet kick drag the gravel pathway to her front door. A steady, noticeable rapping of knuckles.

Rena's paranoia fades quickly into curiosity when she hears Keiichi shouting her name.

"Aah…" he mumbles, squinting his eyes at the closed, locked door. "Damn it…"

"Keiichi?"

Rena's voice drifts over by the fencing. She comes into view, without the trash bag or her cleaver, tilting her head. He's dressed the white-collared shirt over his red tee, and that ridiculously long, black belt clasped through the loops of his black pants — but Rena is without her fuku or the white dress with the purple bow or sash, or the white hat.

His mouth drops open slightly. He scans his eyes over her, dumbstruck. One of Rena's fingers nervously twirls through a strand of reddish-brown hair against her cheek.

"Rena?" Keiichi finally says aloud, grinning. "I almost didn't… recognize you…"

She almost doesn't understand what he means — it's only a flowery top and pale purple shorts. "Don't stare, Keiichi," Rena scolds gently, brows furrowing. "It's rude."

For some reason, this makes Keiichi's face go beet red.

"S-sorry. Um…" He clears his throat, presenting out a small stack of books and papaers. "You missed out on the assignments. Our teacher wanted me to drop them off for you so you wouldn't fall behind."

Rena makes a confused, musing noise. "She did, did?"

"Well… I guess I sort of volunteered to bring them here, more like… …"

A long stretch of silence follows where Keiichi refuses to meet her eyes and is still reddening. Rena's heart hammers a little faster in her chest. She comes forward, taking the assignments from Keichii's grasp, making him finally glance up. "That was very nice of you," Rena comments softly, looking at him from underneath her eyelashes and beaming. "Thank you."

Keiichi smiles back, regaining his confidence, laughing and patting the top of her head.

That's when it all goes awry.

Rena sees a memory, as plain as day, shimmering like water and rimmed with colorful, ethereal light — Keiichi's blood-flecked, enraged snarl, his violent gestures and words

her bruised, broken body, veiled in the darkness of Keiichi's room, twitching

"No…" Keiichi's murmur heightens into a screaming, terrified howl. "No, no… no!" He jerks himself away, paling to a greyish oatmeal hue and stumbling on his own feet.

Rena's eyes blink out a single, warm tear.

"Keiichi…"

"How could I? How could I do that?!" he screams out, grabbing onto the sides of his head and quivering so hard that Keiichi falls to the ground. "I—aaugh—!"

It sounds like he's struggling to breath, dry-gagging, and Rena snaps out of her fear-driven stupor. She falls down with him, wrapping her arms around Keiichi's shoulders and hugging him. "I forgive you… I forgive you…" she repeats bravely, nuzzling her mouth into Keiichi's brown hair.

Lying would not absolve Keiichi for his sins, or hers.

His desperate, heart-wrenching sobbing intensifies, until Rena shushes him, cupping Keiichi's face and lifting it. He's covered in snot and tears and pink-flushed from the heat, his blue-violet eyes scrunching up. This shouldn't have happened to them. Rena kisses between his eyebrows, biting her lip to muffle her own urge to cry, pressing her face into his and listening to the cicadas and their heavy, ragged breathing.

There must be a better world than this. For her, for Keiichi.

.

.


Higurasho no naku koro ni isn't mine. Another first for today! I've never tried this anime fandom (though it's one of my top animes of all time) but I got to rewatching with my pal Conner (glove23 on FFN and AO3) and we both agreed Keiichi/Rena is OTP material. This is for you, Conner! Surprise! And for anybody else who reads this, I hope you liked this too! It's been a while since this anime was popular. Any thoughts/comments are so very very appreciated!